Tornado is a Class A1 engine to the extent that “outwardly, it’s the next step in the class”, but there are some changes over the 1940s engines. Tornado runs with roller bearings, which last longer and are lower in friction than ball bearings, while today it has to run a regulatory radio system and a modern air brake rather than a steam brake, and it has to be a touch lower than the original engines because of overhead power cables.
There’s also no need for the tender to have a water scoop beneath it, as it would once have had. Instead, its 7.62-tonne coal capacity and 28,011-litre water capacity have to be filled trackside by special arrangement. Which is a little less practical but nonetheless inevitable.
Interior - 5 Stars
There are places on a steam train that are quite palatable: in the back, for example, sitting in a dining car, being served fine foods. But your area of interest and mine happens much nearer to the front, on what they call the footplate, which is the bit between the engine and the tender.
Here it’s hot, filthy and noisy, and you can’t see out very well. You’re also faced with what looks like – and in fact is – a baffling array of controls. Some are more frequently used than others but they’re all fairly important. So let’s go through them and, by the end, we should know how to drive a steam locomotive.
Just above the floor is the firebox. That’s the hot bit, obviously. The fireman in charge of it sits on the right, when he isn’t standing and shoveling coal, that is. The wide pipes with big valves on that run up each side of the firebox allow water from the tender into the boiler, and there are two glass gauges that show how full that is. There are two because it needs a degree of redundancy: should the boiler run dry when it’s hot, it will probably explode, which is an unhappy fate to befall a steam locomotive and those on or near it.
Another potential peril is the water in the steam chest, because while steam compresses, water does not, so there is a release valve to blow any out before setting off. It’s why you’ll see engines emitting steam from the front before they go anywhere.
There are, in effect, seven steps to driving a steam train, once you’ve done the necessary preparation. It takes a couple of hours to build up boiler pressure before a run, and to do it you’ll want a good, glowing fire throughout. Black patches, or holes in the fire, are unwanted cool spots. First, then, get the boiler up to pressure. Once it is, wind the drive handle into the gear you want, either forward or reverse.